The College Football Playoff Committee and O.J. Simpson criminal trial jury have a lot in common. The DNA, win-loss records and facts were there, staring them in the face, but they knew better. This fiasco makes participation trophies look like the 1967 Cowboys at Packers Ice Bowl—it’s a disgrace to competition.
“Defense wins championships,” except for in college football where the suits decide in a Texas hotel. And by the way, the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas should be ashamed for harboring such toxic business dealings on their property.
People love sports for the unknown! Results are unpredictable and if this game was only about eye test, then Tiger Woods would have more major championships than Nick O’Leary’s grandfather.
Is it possible that Florida State could have lost in the semi-final? Yes.
Is it possible that Florida State could’ve won the whole thing? Yes.
It’s why the games are played and like Herm Edwards said, “We play to win the game!”
Former Duke Basketball head coach and hall of famer Mike Krzyzewski added in a conversation with Danny Kannell, “Whatever that defense or special teams did, that wasn’t recognized. It was a different way of being a champion. I think it’s a bunch of bullcrap to say that it was a different team.”
The Committee looked for reasons to exclude the Noles rather than recognize their resilience. It was a business decision and has absolutely nothing to do with performance, and just like what they do in the soccer leagues, the ACC has officially been relegated.
FSU has won as many national championships as the Big 10 Conference in the last 30 years, but somehow the Committee liked Michigan’s strength of schedule. The Big 10, and schools north of the Mason-Dixon line don’t win a whole lot of titles and then you look at the Wolverine’s nonconference slate with East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Greene—it doesn’t make any sense.
But this isn’t about the four programs who were invited—the Committee’s crime is against Florida State’s achievements. The Noles’ rise started four years ago and goes back to a long list of embarrassing moments for an otherwise celebrated national powerhouse program. FSU was perfect in 2013 and finished the deal with a win over Auburn to claim its third title. They were perfect again in ‘14, till the wheels came off against Oregon in the Rose Bowl for the first edition of the four-team playoff. Thanks to Dalvin Cook, FSU went 10-3 in 2015 and 2016, and then all hell broke loose.
For several reasons, Jimbo Fisher was not the same man who came to Florida State in 2007 as offensive coordinator under the late, great Bobby Bowden. In 2017, the Fisher-led Noles were 5-6 and he needed change—so did Florida State.
Willie Taggart to the rescue. Taggart left Oregon for Florida State and what he called his, “Dream job.” Taggart’s debut was a sign of things to come, an all bark, no bite 24-3 home loss to Virginia Tech on ESPN for all of America to see. His tenure included more losses and a 9-12 record overall. However, he is responsible for Jordan Travis landing in Tallahassee, and for that—Seminole fans are forever thankful.
Then four years ago, almost to the day—Florida State hired Mike Norvell. He was 38 years old and arguably the most coveted up and coming coach in the country. FSU Football was in big-time trouble coming off a 6-7 effort in ’19 and it was about to get worse. Norvell’s 2020 debut included a global pandemic and the infamous, “we’re boycotting practice Huncho out” tweet from Marvin Wilson, a team captain at the time. The shortened season did offer an unexpected quality win over North Carolina, but the Noles ultimately forfeited Clemson and Florida, to finish 3-6 in an abbreviated, painful Covid-19 season.
Despite starting the ’21 season 0-4 which included the worst home loss in program history to Jacksonville State—this team showed promise! FSU fans experienced hope for the first time in a long time. There’s nothing FSU fans love more than watching edge rushers sack quarterbacks and it started to happen again with the addition of Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas. Doak Campbell Stadium felt like Doak again and the season peaked with an incredible 31-28 home win over Miami. Then they won again the next week, beating Boston College in Boston which meant the Noles could earn a bowl invite with a win over the Gators. Not so fast, FSU would lose in Gainesville 24-21 to finish 5-7.
But the season was a success, and it was easy to see that this team was moving in the right direction. Most importantly, FSU found a quarterback—a good one in Jordan Travis. Kelvin Benjamin was the most improved Nole ever, till #13 came along. The same guy that split time with a one-legged McKenzie Milton and almost became a wide receiver had established himself as a legitimate, Division 1 Power Five Conference starting quarterback. The ’21 Noles turned the corner, they climbed!
Then in 2022, for the first time since 2018, Florida State went to a bowl game, and for the first time since 2017, won a bowl game with a 35-32 victory over Oklahoma. After a home tune-up against Duquesne in week zero, Florida State went to New Orleans as a 3.5 point underdog and beat LSU. In week three at Louisville, Jordan Travis left the game early in the second quarter with a leg injury. Tate Rodemaker entered the game down 21-14 and rallied the Noles for a 35-31 win. Then FSU beat Boston College to start the season 4-0! The team, the program had completely reinvented itself and learned how to win. They played tough, they hit and finished games. The midseason slide where they dropped three in-a-row is the last time the Noles lost! Since then, Florida State has won 19 consecutive games. The four-year transformation was complete and the 2023 season is the end-result, not the beginning.
So many players are responsible for the resurrection:
Robert Cooper, who was on the 2017 team that lost to Arizona State in the Sun Bowl and the ’22 team that went 10-3 and won six in-a-row to finish the season. Jashaun Corbin, La’Damian Webb and Treshaun Ward, three tremendous running backs who revived the FSU running game. Mycah Pittman, who added toughness and was a big part of Florida State’s newfound physicality in ’22. Jammie Robinson, a safety transfer from South Carolina, the team’s leading tackler in ’22 who will forever be remembered for his abusive, disrespectful tackle against the Hurricanes. Jermaine Johnson, the first Seminole All-American since Dalvin Cook and Demarcus Walker in 2016. Keir Thomas, a transfer defensive end from South Carolina who’s now with the L.A. Rams. And of course, Dillan Gibbons, Lawrance Toafili, Ontaria Wilson, Kalen DeLoach, Trey Benson, Keir Thomas, Tatum Bethune, Akeem Dent, Renardo Green, Patrick Payton, Fabien Lovett, Braden Fiske, Johnny Wilson, Keon Coleman and Jared Verse.
Four years ago, the Florida State Football program was in the deepest, darkest depths of hell.
After the embarrassing loss to Jacksonville State, an offensive lineman proposed to his girlfriend while the Ohio Valley Conference school celebrated on the midfield Seminole logo.
A shirtless professor read a book during a 59-10 home loss to Clemson.
We had a wide receiver who wore a Halloween mask on the sidelines.
The Travis Hunter flip.
There was a turnover purse gimmick which any FSU fan agrees is the program’s most humiliating moment.
And then the Seminoles climbed all the way back with this year’s perfect season—except that the payoff was a greater, more painful tragedy than anything the fanbase had experienced previously.
Former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher liked to talk about the two kinds of dogs, “Huntin’ dogs and show dogs.”
No doubt, we have show dogs in this year’s Playoff just like the Westminster Kennel Club. The SEC and Big 10 put Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Washington on leashes like Pekingese bitches, paraded them out there and the CFP Committee named them best in show.
Florida State University won’t do anything stupid like UCF did in 2017 and claim a national championship, but the fan base will honor and uplift this undefeated team forever. This squad will be revered like the ’93, ’99 and ’13 teams, and in 10 years—they will be invited back and honored at halftime.
They earned it.